When you visit your aging parent in a care center, the cat can get your tongue. First, the pleasantries. Then the silence. What happened to those '80s platitudes about 'quality time'?
Fortunately we Boomers are creative. Here are 10 simple activities that may add zip to your visits. Most are geared for elders who are alert and oriented. Others may stimulate those with dementia as well.
1. Bring a loved one. Two is company; three or more is a party. Just the presence of another will brighten the visit and lighten your emotional load.
2. Add a child or more, preferably a grandchild or great-grandchild, and your group will gather a following. Add a baby and presto! Your aging parent will go gaga.
3. Bring small items to entertain the little ones--bubbles, balls, crayons and color books. Don't forget toy cars and dolls. Watching the little ones play will engage your aging parent.
4. Let your elderly parent play the host (or hostess.) Purchase a guest book and invite everyone who visits to sign and date it. That includes care staff workers, clergy and children. When you come again, open the book and ask about recent visitors.
5. Have a family sing-along. Try almost anything from "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" to "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" to "Amazing Grace." The public library and the care center's activities director may be able to provide CD's to help. My most treasured memory of Grandma Ethel was hearing her sing "Jesus Loves Me" long after she ceased to recognize us and after she had stopped talking.
6. Bring in your aging parent's favorite food,either home-cooked or takeout and eat together in the family visiting room. Better yet, plan a family potluck in which members all prepare Grandma's family recipes. As you eat, share memories revolving around the special dishes.
7. Root, root for the home team. Watch your favorite Major League team in your parent's room or apartment. Don caps and other sports regalia and call on the little ones to serve as pint-sized cheerleaders. And be sure to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."
8. Get glued to the tube. Watch television classics together, whether "The Lone Ranger," "Mickey Mouse," or movie-length blockbusters like "Sound of Music" or Shirley Temple flicks. Bring popcorn, soda pop and movie candy.
9. Take a walk outside. The sunshine is a wonderful boost for a loved one spending day after day in a care setting.
10. Pray together. Everyone can take a turn, thanking God for the many blessings.
Can you think of other activities which have made your visits memorable?